Bronze Bushings and Bearings: What are they?

Blog | April 10th, 2017

Bronze bushings and bearings are fabricated from an amalgamated pairing, an alloying technique that blends copper with tin. The bright, reddish-brown alloy favours its coppery heritage, but tin and a number of other additives gift this special rolling element family with other exceptional features. Among those features, a self-lubricating capacity must stand head-and-shoulders above all others. Let’s check out these burnished machine elements and what they have to offer.

Bronzed Bearing Differences 

An overview of the bronze bushings and bearings category reveals a few proprietary design influences. A stainless steel bearing, for instance, is a robust shaft attachment, a component that supports large loads. Conversely, a similar bronze bearing isn’t as quite as robust as its steely cousin, but it does perform better in certain situations. Bronze fittings are preferred in marine applications, so expect to see the rolling parts and bushings on ship engines and submerged drive systems. Oil-impregnated bushings are also an industry mainstay. The sintered alloy is compacted along with a lubricant to deliver a near maintenance-free bearing type, something an iron-formed group can’t equal. Incidentally, don’t forget copper’s thermal conductivity features; copper, and therefore bronze, forms a good heat transference interface with its housing, so frictional heat dissipates rapidly.

Applications for Bronze Rolling Bearings 

Ships and submerged machines use bronze bearings. Bronze bushings, sintered or not, are also commonly found in marine applications, but also expect to find these unibody sleeves in corrosive machine assemblies. This latter class includes diesel pumps, automotive piston pin bushings, and slow-moving earth diggers. Rolling elements are susceptible to fracturing events when such heavy usage domains are called for, but a group of sintered sleeve bushings will not fail when an unfathomable load bears down. Indeed, the slow ground carrier that once conveyed the space shuttle to its launch pad relied on this type of bronze sleeved bearing. It was a slow carriage vehicle, but the copper-tin bushings easily supported that load while slowly driving the rotating shafts that powered the mammoth drive systems.

Of course, not every bronze bushing or bearing is created equal. There are the already covered sintered and cast products, the bearings that add or lack a self-lubricating feature. Next, special additives increase the alloy’s corrosion resisting characteristics, its lubricity rating, and mechanical properties. Finally, there are tin leaded variants and aluminium bronzes, plus many other metallically altered forms. These variants add thermal conductance headroom, wear resistance, and other essential features to an already versatile bearing group.

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